Thursday, October 22, 2020

Joseph’s Testimony

 

The book of Genesis wants us to know Joseph’s testimony. That is understandable because it is one of the most powerful found in the Bible. The betrayals and disappointments could have sidelined Joseph for good, but they were only stepping stones to more incredible things. Most importantly, God gave Joseph insight into his own life that he summed up in his testimony around the names of his two sons:

Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering” (Gen 41:50-52).

Manasseh means “he who causes to forget.” We, too, have been demeaned, hurt, betrayed, and abandoned. The pain of that hurt will not leave us. It affects how we think, how we feel, and how we view the past, present, and future. We feel powerless and think that our life is pretty much over.

But, this isn’t Joseph’s testimony! He says that God made him forget all his trouble—those terrible things that once haunted him. It is an admission that he once hated, once felt sorry for himself, but God took it away. God changed how he looked at his own life, his past, and his future. Some things will hinder us from moving forward unless they are forgotten, but we will not be able to do that on our own. God, however, can make us forget the pain so we can move on.

Joseph named his second son, Ephraim, which means “fertile.” Forgetting the bad things is the first step; growing is the second step. God made Joseph fruitful, and where did he do it? Right in the middle of his suffering. This is a most remarkable feat when God takes someone who has emotionally and spiritually died and helps them begin to grow again. They grow and grow and eventually produce fruit, something that long ago seemed impossible!

In later years, Joseph looked back with gratitude and said that the only reason he survived the terrible ordeal done to him was that God helped him forget. Amazingly, God enabled Joseph to forgive the cruelty that had been dealt him. Consequently, Joseph experienced freedom when he forgave his brothers and the others who had betrayed him. When Joseph let the hurts go through forgiveness, he unleashed a new future where good things would grow. Only God can help you do that. Joseph knew why things were going well. It was because God planted him in Egypt and made him fruitful in the land of his affliction.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Thy Will Be Done

 

I don’t always know God’s will for every facet of my life, and I rarely know what God is planning in this world of ours. So when I don’t know how to pray, I have learned to pray God’s will be done. That is what Jesus taught his disciples to pray “Thy will be done” (Matt 6:10).

The Jesus we see in the garden of Gethsemane is a Jesus we are not used to seeing in the Gospels. Mark says that Jesus was overwhelmed with sorrow to the very point of death (Mark 14:34). As Jesus prayed, his body and his soul were overwhelmed with the impending fear of death.  Strangely, Jesus had never shown fear, not when he battled Satan in the wilderness, nor when he barely escaped death in his home town of Nazareth, not even when he confronted demons or his enemies who wanted him dead.

Why this fear? Jesus was fearful in the garden, not out of fear of his physical death, but his spiritual death. Jesus understood that he was about to become sin for the whole world. He knew the wages of sin was death. Jesus asked his Father, “…if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). We see Jesus’ humanity and his understanding of what he would have to endure spiritually, so he prayed for another way. Jesus asked his Father to take away the cup.

What did Jesus see in the cup? Imagine the appalling filth, the most wretched of human sins, and you have the contents of the cup. Jesus saw the sin of the world, and he recoiled so much that the thought of the cup repulsed him.

Jesus, however, finished his prayer with these words, “take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). What a small word will is, but what a difference it makes. Jesus asked his Father if there was any other way, yet what he wanted most was his Father’s will. What a prayer, and what a model for us! We often beg God for deliverance, but where is the part of the prayer where we pray for God’s will?  Every emotion and every thought in Jesus’ mind and spirit demanded deliverance from the cup.  Jesus knew what was ahead, but despite that sadness that overwhelmed him, he chose the will of the Father.

Where is the man or woman of God who can submit every prayer and petition through the filter of God’s will?  More important than the miracle we want or the deliverance we crave is God’s will.  May we, like Jesus, learn to pray with every petition “...yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).